Catching “The Wave!” – Kanab, UT

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In late February I mentioned in a post that I had won two coveted hiking permits to hike Coyote Buttes North – aka “The Wave” – on June 4th in southern Utah.  I was giddy and jumping with joy, as these permits are not easy to get.  When Steve was diagnosed with cancer several weeks later, my hopes for making the hike dimmed as we focused on his health situation.  But he wanted us to do the hike and made it a goal by working extra hard to prepare for it after his surgery.  Our normal outdoor activity was walking the roads in the RV park, but to see if he could do a “real” hike we spent some time on the trails at nearby Sabino Canyon.

Sabino Canyon

Steve met a “twin” that day on Esperero Trail in Sabino Canyon, look how they’re dressed!

After completing 5.5 miles of moderate hiking he felt ready to tackle The Wave.  So we left Betsy behind in the scorching heat of Tucson and drove 450 miles north to our hotel room at Page, Arizona.  The trailhead to The Wave was another hour away near Kanab, Utah, so off we went at 5:00am the next morning to beat the heat.

A quick update on Steve:

He’s now into his second week of daily radiation treatments, with 5 more weeks to go. Because his Oncologist warned that food will soon taste like cardboard with loss of appetite and possibly severe pain when swallowing, he has been on a food binge of epic proportions, eating all of his favorites plus anything in the RV that doesn’t move.

He got a big boost when we stopped on our way back to Tucson for a visit with good friends Al and Ingrid of Live, Laugh, RV.  They indulged us with a wonderful pasta dish, followed with more yummy desserts than Steve had ever eaten in one day.  Not that he was complaining!  They also gave us a container full of yummy sweets to take home, and I felt obliged to help Steve finish it, just to prevent a possible sugar overload 🙂

Steve is starting to “feel the burn” of the radiation with more swallowing problems, so there are tough times ahead.  But his attitude is good and we will beat this beast.

Ingrid’s delicious cake didn’t last long.  Eat up, Steve!

BLM Permit for The Wave

Coyote Buttes PermitThe Wave is a famous geologic feature in what’s known as Coyote Buttes North, on the north edge of the Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.  The area is along the Utah/Arizona border near the town of Kanab.  Because of its popularity, it is being protected and access is  limited  by lottery drawing selection.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allows only 20 permits each day, 10 via online lottery (four months out), and 10 that are distributed to walk-ins at the GSENM Visitor Center in Kanab for the following day — also by lottery.  If you’re interested and want to find out everything you need to know about Wave permits, click the links below:

The hike

There is no obvious trail to The Wave, but the BLM office sent us a helpful photographic guide with land features and GPS coordinates to show us the way.  A couple of days before the hike a park ranger called to warn us that the forecast for June 4th was for temps in the 90’s and to bring lots of water.  We started super-early of course, as we’re not conditioned to hiking in 90º conditions with no shade.  We did overlook the one-hour time difference between Page, AZ and the trail in Kanab, UT.  So we started the hike at 7:00am Utah time instead of 6:00am Arizona time and realized we would not have wanted to start any later.  It got very hot by the time we headed back to the car.

Lake Powell, AZ

A calm sunrise over Lake Powell, AZ as we set off, the promise of a beautiful day

The hike is moderate, with a distance of 5.6 miles round trip gaining 487′ of elevation to The Wave.  Where there were footprints in the sandy areas we followed them, otherwise we treaded on slick rock and rocky terrain, constantly referring to the official map for guidance.  The fact that there’s practically no shade is a factor with temps commonly in the 90’s and higher this time of the year.

North Coyote Buttes

North Coyote Buttes

The landscape

The vast expanse along the way has incredible features, and we were in awe as we trudged on.  There is so much to look at – up, down, and all around.  It’s a kaleidoscope of formations with outcroppings of small sandstone domes and fascinating colorful swirls everywhere.

Over the first ridge, the land opens out to reveal a huge expanse of sand and slick rock, with a long, high ridge to the right.  A vast open area of sand and scattered rock domes fill the middle distance, and larger, more concentrated red rocks to the left rise up to a mesa which forms the edge of Buckskin Gulch.

North Coyote Buttes

Cross-bedded butte

One of the many amazing buttes here.  We’ve never seen such a variety of shapes in one place

North Coyote Butte

Sandstone domes along the way

North Coyote Buttes

Distant views of the “Teepees”, the general name given to these conical sandstone mounds

The wave trail

Some wildflowers were still blooming

North Coyote Buttes

Colorful, swirling strata in shades of pink, red, yellow and white along the east side of Coyote Buttes Ridge

The wave

The Wave is located just this side of that shaded vertical crevasse

The wave

Looking back at Buckskin Gulch and the sandy wash below the entrance to The Wave

In and around The Wave

At the entrance we were immediately astounded!  The waves and colors were amplified because of the sun’s reflection from the other side.  Our arrival time was perfect.

The wave entrance

We’re here, baby!

Slot at the wave

A fiery slot due to sun reflection

As you may have guessed, my camera was on overload!  So pardon me with all my wavy pictures, but take your time viewing these one-of-a-kind fascinating and exotic rock formations:

The wave

For two hours we wandered around the cliffs and gullies, then climbed up further

From a higher vantage point the area looked like a gallery of gruesomely twisted sandstone, resembling deformed pillars, cones, mushrooms, cushy pillows, dinner rolls  and other odd shapes that continued to amaze us.

The wave

Other lucky hikers have arrived

The wave

Top Arch and the fiery south ridge, can you spot Steve?

This place completely blew us away as we observed the display of textures, shapes, colors, curves, and layers all in one place!

The wave

Nature’s artwork of lichens and molds all over the rocks

The wave

The Wave

Doesn’t it look like recently-baked dinner rolls?

The wave

Looking down at the reflection-lit entrance

And peering closely, the details are exquisite as well.

Finally, the main feature, the Wave!

The Wave is actually a small ravine between eroded sandstone domes formed of amazing rocks containing thin, swirling strata.  It’s situated at the foot of the north slopes of Top Rock, formed of white Navajo sandstone.  It’s hard to imagine that billions of years ago the area was flat and covered with sand.  As usual, wind and water eroded, carved and smoothed to reveal the layers of sand remaining.  Finally, those layers were compacted and mineralized to reveal what we see.  Amazing!

the Wave

The wave

 

The wave

The wave

I was so happy that Steve insisted on making this trip, even though he wasn’t exactly in top hiking condition.  We both enjoyed the change of scenery, and he had promised to do something that would show how he appreciated his “lovely caregiver” during the past few weeks.  He couldn’t have picked a better way to make me happy !

The wave

Riding the wave, baby!

Words and pictures are not enough to describe what we experienced here, it’s at the top of our list of geologic finds.  We recommend that folks come here either March-May or September-October, and enter the lottery as soon as possible or take a chance as a walk-in during those times.  This place is beyond amazing!

And with this post we’ll be on temporary hiatus as Steve’s recovery continues.



 

 

 

 

Hiking with John and Pam – Tucson, AZ

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With most of Betsy’s maintenance items out of the way, it was time to have some fun.  At our happy hour Pam recited a list of trails to enjoy around Tucson, and we were geared up to go hiking with them again.  Many of you know John and Pam of Oh the places they go are avid hikers whose boots have passed over hundreds (probably thousands) of miles of trails.  We hiked with them last summer in Colorado and were looking forward to trekking with them again here in Tucson.

We initially chose two trails – Seven Falls Trail in Sabino/Bear Canyon, and the scenic Mt. Wasson Peak Trail at Saguaro National Park.

Seven Falls Trail, Sabino Canyon

The Seven Falls Trail is accessed via Bear Canyon Trail.  The hike begins at the parking lot of Sabino Canyon Recreation Area in the eastern foothills of the Santa Catalina mountain range, northeast of Tucson.  As the name implies, the reward at the end of this trail is Seven Falls where the water cascades down a steep ravine creating an enchanting sequence of falls and pools.  We followed Bear Canyon Trail for about 2 miles and then continued a little more than 2 more miles to reach the falls.

Seven Falls Trail

The leaders conferring

When we settled on this hike we hadn’t considered the recent rain and snow.  The trail crisscrossed over Sabino Creek seven times and the water was high, making our crossings quite challenging.  At the first two we removed our boots and socks to wade across the frigid water.  Fortunately John was prepared and brought a towel for everyone to dry their feet with – thanks, John!

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Doing this seven times in each direction was not an option!

John was our leader and he searched for drier crossings several times, but alas there were none.  So after the second crossing we just gave up and our boots and socks were soaked the rest of the hike.

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Yikes my boot’s under water and it’s freezing!

Other than the abundance of cacti and other Sonoran Desert plants, it felt like we were not in the desert as we enjoyed the sound of rushing water during most of the hike.  After crossing the frigid water several times the trail rose up the side of Bear Canyon, then came back down to Seven Falls.

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Desert Marigold

The only bloom we saw on the trail, a Desert Marigold

The exposed granitic rocks were quite a sight, crossed by mineral veins but slippery when wet.

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Seven Falls, Bear Canyon

A large pool at the falls

At the end of the trail we were rewarded with the sights and sounds of the falls, and we relaxed for lunch next to one of the pools.  Off came the boots and socks as we exposed our legs to the sun to warm them back up.

Seven Falls Trail

The foursome enjoying a respite from wet boots and socks

The return trip was much shorter as we gave up on trying to stay dry and just plowed across the water crossings.  Our legs were double-tired after 8+ miles of hiking with heavy, wet boots.   But despite the minor inconvenience it was a great day!

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Hurry up and dry, our next hike is fast approaching!

Mt. Wasson Peak, Saguaro National Park

The second hike John and Pam led us on was to the top of Wasson Peak.  Mt. Wasson is located 15 miles west of the city in the Tucson Mountain Range, and is the highest point in the west unit of Saguaro National Park.  They had hiked this trail before, and due to the excellent views at the top they were happy to repeat the trek with us.    It’s a great way to experience Saguaro National Park and the Sonoran Desert.

King Canyon Trail

There are several trails leading to the summit, and we chose to follow the King Canyon, Hugh Norris and Sendero Esperanza trails, then we looped back around to the Gould Mine Trail to give us a 7.8 mile workout.  The trails are all within the Saguaro National Park, and we walked amidst the Sonoran Desert ecosystem with full displays of giant Saguaro, Prickly Pear, Barrel Cactus and Cholla, to name just a few.

Pam has great interest in Crested Saguaros and she tries to see as many as she can when in Arizona.  If you don’t know, a Crested Saguaro is one where the growing tip produces a fan-like form referred to a crest or cristate.  They are very rare, but Pam spotted one with her eagle-eyes on this hike.  If you’d like to see more of her Crested Saguaro photos click here.

King Canyon Trail

Looking at some black liquid coming out of a fallen cactus

This trail is moderate with some rocky and steep sections, and we followed several switchbacks as we approached the peak.

Wasson Peak

Our destination – Wasson Peak 4,687 ft

A history tidbit: Wasson Peak is named in honor of John Wasson, the first editor of the Tucson Citizen newspaper in the late 1800’s.

King Canyon Trail

Looking back at the switchbacks we just hiked

Wasson Peak

The foursome at Wasson Peak – John, Pam, ML and Steve

This hike is definitely worth doing.  The view of the valley, surrounding mountains and Tucson is spectacular from the peak.  Because of its accessibility and outstanding views we met several other hikers on this trail.

Wasson Peak

Can you see the airport way out there?

Picacho Peak

Picacho Peak – we’ve all scaled that tough mountain, but not together

Hugh Norris Trail

Hugh Norris Trail follows the ridge top with great views on both sides

Norris Trail

That formation looks like a man reading a book, no?

We also came across some desert blooms:

Skeletal Saguaro

A skeletal Saguaro is still a beauty

Fishhook cactus

Hugh Norris Trail

On our way down the Hugh Norris Trail

Sendero Esperanza Trail

Let’s do a final map check

What do you do after a long and rewarding hike?  Have mexican food!  Dave and Sue joined us that evening for dinner at El Charro, one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in Tucson.

Yum!

Yum!  Three kinds of tamales

Great People

Great food, great company! – Dave, Steve, ML, John, Pam and Sue

 

Next Up:  What we missed the first time…



 

Snowy Arizona? – Tucson

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Santa Catalina Mountains

Driving south from the Cave Creek area, we tucked ourselves in north of Tucson, the second-largest city in Arizona.  We thought it might get warmer as we headed south – wrong!  A cold front brought clouds and rain – even snow at the Santa Catalina mountains where we were parked.  For the first time during our travels we were faced with frozen water hoses as nighttime temperatures plummeted into the twenties.  When you think of Arizona, cold and snow rarely come to mind, but being winter it does get chilly here – especially at night.  However, we loved the view of the beautiful white mountains right outside our windows!

Catalina State Park

Catalina State Park

Daytime temperatures were in the 50’s – plenty warm for us to go out and have some fun. Armed with recommendations from Dan H. (thanks, Dan!), we checked out some of the things to do in the Tucson area.  Here are a few we enjoyed:

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, nestled in the scenic Tucson Mountains, is the perfect place to get a good glimpse of what this beautiful desert is all about.  We walked through the open areas and were offered amazing views of the mountains dotted with Sagauro cacti, Palo Verde and many other desert plants.  Wandering through a living walled area, we found lots of information and close-up views detailing bobcats, prairie dogs, coyotes, rattlesnakes and more.

Being from the west coast, this place gave us a good overall exposure to the diverse flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert, and the ecosystem that thrives here.  A nice touch from the museum (although I would not call this a museum, per se) is the free SPF30 sunscreen and refrigerated water fountains along the trails.  This place is very well done and a must-see.

We hiked in Sabino Canyon, a spectacular desert canyon cut into the south side of the Santa Catalina Mountains.  There were two tram tours, one appropriately called Sabino Canyon, a narrated, educational 45-minute, 3.8 mile tour into the foothills.  Then there was Bear Canyon, a non-narrated ride that took hikers to the trailhead of the Seven Falls. We purchased tickets and planned to take the Bear Canyon hike, but due to confusion by the tram driver we ended up getting on the Sabino Canyon tram instead.

On this tour our driver enthusiastically narrated some interesting facts about the vegetation and history of the canyon.  We got off at stop #9 and hiked up one of the trails to enjoy our lunch with a view overlooking the canyon.  Then, instead of re-boarding the tram we decided to walk back down the 3.8 miles to the visitors center.  We learned that we had actually gotten the better tour but paid for the cheaper one to Bear Canyon – not bad!

Sabino Canyon

Hiking on Phone Line Trail

Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon lunch stop – wow!

Sabino Canyon

At the top of Eagle Mountain

The University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2dubbed “one of the 50 must-see wonders of the world”, was just up the road from our site at Catalina State Park.  We remembered the much publicized “Human Missions” experiments in the early 90’s, so we decided to check it out.  We toured what they call “wilderness Biomes” – building blocks of the biosphere; a tropical rain forest, savanna, coastal fog, desert, and a million-gallon ocean – all under one roof!

Our knowledgeable tour guide explained the history, research, and unprecedented science taking place inside this engineering marvel.  Despite all of that we still ended the tour as non-scientists.

If you are young enough to remember the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia, you might remember the “Duck and Cover” exercises.  At the Titan Missile Museum, an underground tour relives a time when the threat of nuclear war between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union was a reality.  The Titan II missile was capable of launching from its underground silo in 58 seconds and could deliver a nine megaton thermonuclear warhead to its target more than 5,500 miles away – in less than thirty minutes.

This is the only remaining Titan missile silo of the 54 that were constructed in the US.  It is very interesting to see and hear about life in the silos during the 22 years they were operational.  Steve had already been here once before with his pilot buddies but thought I would enjoy it as well.  And I did!

Titan Missile Museum

Underground control room

Titan Missile Museum

Titan II missile

Lastly, when you’re hungry and looking for authentic delicious southwestern food in the Tucson area, make the trip to El Charro Café.  Opened in 1922, this is reportedly the oldest continuously-operated, family-owned Mexican restaurant in the United States.  Don’t forget to try one of their yummy Margaritas.  Thanks Dan, this restaurant is at the top of our list!